Relatives of firebombed Palestinian family sue Israel for NIS 10m
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Relatives of firebombed Palestinian family sue Israel for NIS 10m

Dawabsha family say state’s settlement policies constitute ‘criminal negligence,’ led to attack blamed on Jewish terrorists

Members of the Dawabsha family speak at a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing their decision to sue the State of Israel on May 8, 2017. (Flash90)
Members of the Dawabsha family speak at a press conference in Tel Aviv announcing their decision to sue the State of Israel on May 8, 2017. (Flash90)

Relatives of Ahmed Dawabsha, a Palestinian boy whose parents and brother were killed in a 2015 arson attack attributed to Jewish extremists, filed suit against the State of Israel on Monday for “criminal negligence.”

The complaint, filed at the Nazareth District Court, demands NIS 10 million ($2.78 million) from the state in compensation.

Hassan Khatib, the lawyer representing the family, said at a press conference that the decision to sue was not about the money, but rather aimed at holding Israel to account over its alleged responsibility for the arson attack.

“This brutal incident led to the worst possible outcome, which also left scars on the soul. The amount of the claim is not the issue,” Channel 2 quoted him as saying. “The full civil and security responsibility lies with the State of Israel.”

Two homes in Duma, south of Nablus, were set alight in the July 31, 2015, attack, and the Hebrew words “revenge” and “long live the king messiah” were spray-painted on their walls, alongside a Star of David.

In the attack, Ali Dawabsha,18 months old, was burned to death and father Saad Dawabsha, mother Riham and their son Ahmed, who was 4 at the time, were critically injured. Saad died in August and Riham in September, after treatment in Israeli hospitals. Ahmed, the only surviving member of the family, received months of treatment for severe burns.

Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali (Channel 2 screenshot)
Saad and Riham Dawabsha, with baby Ali (Channel 2 screenshot)

In its complaint, the family blames Israel’s settlement policies for the attack, saying that the state’s failure to demolish the illegal settlement outposts, such as the one in the area from which the alleged attackers came, constituted “criminal negligence” that led to the attack.

Israel created “a hothouse and place for groups of lawbreakers to plan and prepare to carry out hate crimes against the Palestinian residents of the area,” the suit claims.

The suit also accuses Israel of not taking action against acts of violence and incitement to violence by the settlers, thus allowing for the arson attack.

“The writing was on the wall and it was clear to everyone that the leniency toward the hilltop youth, outpost residents and lawbreakers would quickly spill over from property damage and non-fatal attacks to deadly attacks that would end the lives of the innocent Palestinian residents,” it said.

Prior to filing the complaint, the family held a press conference at Beit Sokolov in Tel Aviv alongside representatives of the Gaza-based Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, which helped the family file the suit.

Al-Mezan’s Tawfiq Muhammed told Channel 2 on Sunday that the decision to file the complaint was based on the view of the family and his group that Israel bears the responsibility for the attack.

“The Dawabsha family lays all the responsibility on the State of Israel for the act of terror in which members of the Dawabsha family were murdered — including the father, mother and son Ali — and also for Ahmed’s injuries. Therefore, we will present a complaint against the state, because we view it as responsible for this act of murder — whether in accordance with international law or the law of the State of Israel,” he said.

The burned-down home of the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus, July 31, 2015 (Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)
The burned-down home of the Dawabsha family in the Palestinian village of Duma, near Nablus, July 31, 2015 (Zacharia Sadeh/Rabbis for Human Rights)

The decision to sue the state came after Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last month that Israel would not pay terror victims’ compensation to Ahmed Dawabsha, now 6, who was gravely wounded in the attack.

Writing to Joint (Arab) List MK Yousef Jabareen in response to a question as to why the boy has not received money from the state, Liberman said Ahmed does not qualify as a “terror victim” and will therefore not receive compensation.

The current law stipulates that the state must compensate Israeli citizens affected by terrorism, but does not apply to Palestinians “who are not citizens or residents of Israel,” Liberman wrote.

Israeli Knesset member Youssef T, Jabareen (Facebook)
Knesset member Youssef T. Jabareen (Facebook)

In January 2016, then-attorney general Yehuda Weinstein also rejected a request from Jabareen for Dawabsha to be recognized as a terror victim.

A Defense Ministry official told The Times of Israel last month that the family had been offered the opportunity to submit a request to an inter-ministerial committee for compensation but decided instead to sue the state.

In December 2015, Yoav Mordechai, the Israel Defense Forces coordinator of activities in the West Bank, denied reports that the Israeli Health Ministry had served the family with a NIS 2 million ($557,000) bill for treatment in Israeli hospitals, according to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an. Mordechai reportedly said that Israel would foot the bill.

Ma’an reported that the family had received a NIS 900,000 bill for medical expenses from the Palestinian Health Ministry, of which NIS 800,000 were for Ahmed’s treatment. Mordechai, also quoted in Ma’an, countered that the Israeli government has officially offered to pick up the NIS 800,000 bill but that the family’s lawyer had turned the offer down.

The attack caused outrage in Israel and around the world, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to find the terrorists behind the firebombing and put them on trial.

Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted Sunday, January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)
Amiram Ben-Uliel, who was indicted January 3, 2016, for murder in the killing of the Dawabsha family in Duma (courtesy)

In January 2016, a 21-year-old Israeli Jewish man, Amiram Ben-Uliel, and an unnamed 16-year-old minor were indicted for carrying out the Duma attack. Ben-Uliel was indicted for murder; the minor, who is not alleged to have directly participated in the firebombing, was charged as an accomplice.

Raoul Wootliff and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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